Tag Archives: ginaissance

Artingstall’s Brilliant London Dry Gin

Think Hollywood, think glamour, style, and, occasionally, quality. One of the increasing number of “celebrities” who have been drawn to put their own stamp on the ginaissance is Hollywood film director, Paul Feig. His brainchild is Artingstall’s Brilliant London Gin and is the result of his quest to find the perfect gin to go into his favourite cocktail of Martini.

Often when you dig into the development of a product which is associated with a “celebrity” you find that they have done little more than add their name to a product in the hope that it will bring a little cachet. Feig, though, at least according to his publicity, has been involved in all aspects of the design of this spirit. Teaming up with Minhas Craft Brewery, a family-owned micro distillery based in Monroe in Wisconsin and the second oldest in the States, he discussed his ideal gin with co-owners, Manjit and Ravinder Minhas, who produced eight different baskets of botanicals and distilled up versions within the parameters discussed. After a considerable amount of trial and error, they came up with this gin.

Artingstall’s uses eleven botanicals including juniper, orris root, coriander, cassia bark, cardamom, elderberries, and citrus. On the nose the aromas are what you would expect from a London Dry style gin, juniper forward, a nice amount of citrus and the subtle tones of spice. The spirit is crystal-clear in the glass and in the mouth the earthy flavour of orris root is the yin to the yang of the underlying peppery sweetness, before finishing off with a long aftertaste of perfumed lavender. With an ABV of 42% it packs a punch and is versatile enough to hold its own in a martini or negroni as well as making for a satisfying drink on its own along with a premium tonic.     

In a bold move Feig chose not to call the gin after himself, preferring to stand behind the camera rather than in front of it, and allows the spirit to stand up for itself, confident in its qualities, notwithstanding the feverish efforts of the publicists to remind you that it is his creation. There is a personal connection to the name, albeit an obscure one. Artingstall was the maiden name of his mother and, according to Feig, it was chosen because it had an old-fashioned English feel about it.

The paramount statement piece of this gin and what makes Artingstall’s stand out from the crowd is the bottle. It is stunning, a huge, square block of embossed glass, reminiscent of the classic cut glass decanters of the 1950s and 60s, which would do serious damage if you dropped it on your toes. The design was based on an old cut-glass decanter Feig found in a charity shop and has a wide glass top with a white synthetic stopper. The labelling is a classy black, textured with a gold foil border and gold lettering. It is magnificent.

Hollywood has a reputation for being all glitz and glamour but there is real quality and much thought behind this blockbuster. Brilliant in name and brilliant by nature.

Until the next time, cheers!

Bayab African Grown Gin

One of the most distinctive sights of the sub-Saharan savannas is a tree whose branches look like branches, the baobab, known as the “upside-down tree”. According to African legend, it one of the first trees to appear on earth. However, when it saw the slim and graceful palm tree the baobab cried out that it wanted to be taller. Then when it saw the beautiful flame tree with its distinctive and vivid red flowers, the baobab started to lobby for flower blossoms. Then when it saw the fig tree, it wanted fruit. The gods, naturally irked by the tree’s demands, uprooted it and then replanted it upside down to keep it quiet. As well as explaining the shape of the tree the moral of the tale is that you should be satisfied with what you have got.

More pertinent to the ginaissance is its fruit, which takes some trees two hundred years to start producing, has a bold, sweet, citrussy taste, like a tangy sherbet. Whitley Neill uses it but black-owned South African spirits brand, Spearhead, have chosen to put this bold, brassy fruit at the heart of their gin that encapsulates the essence of the African continent.   

Using locally grown sugarcane and botanicals sourced from the continent, such as juniper berries, coriander, rosemary, cinnamon, coarse salt, lemon peel, orange peel, and baobab, the mix is blended with the purest water from the Midlands of KwaZulu-Natal and distilled in small batches in a copper still at the Midlands Distillery in KwaZulu-Natal. Crystal-clear, the resulting spirit with a mouth-watering ABV of 43% is a complex melange of zesty and sweet citric notes, gentle spices, mellifluous herbs, and peppery juniper, firmly in the London Dry style, but with a distinctive African twist.

The African vibes are continued in the design of the bottle. It is perfectly round, dumpy, with broad shoulders, and a medium sized neck leading to what appears to be a natural cork stopper. The labelling features a vivid and eye-catching, oversized patterning in a blue against a white background. A bright orange is used to good effect to highlight the essentials of the product. The label at the rear tells me that “the best tasting gin hails only from the best ingredients and natural environment that nature has to offer”.

It is a brave claim but rather like the gin there is substance to the boast. If you like your gins bold and vibrant, then Bayab is one you should definitely look out for.

Until the next time, cheers!

G’Vine Nouaison Gin

One of the delights of the ginaissance is the realisation that there are gin distillers operating outside of the UK and that their products are as good as if not better than those produced here. I first came across G’Vine a few years ago when I bought a bottle of their Floraison gin, a little apprehensively, I must say, as the base spirit of their gins are made from grape spirit, which can leave a rather acerbic taste that botanicals, no matter how carefully selected, struggle to overcome.

Nouaison is its sister gin, and its name is the French term for the blossoming of the vine flower, the mature petals of which are one of the fourteen botanicals which make up this punchy, zesty gin. Coming from the Cognac region of France it is unsurprising that the grape is at the heart of the gin, the tradition of using grape-based spirits for juniper-flavoured spirits dating back in France to the 13th century. You never stop learning when you drink gin. The grapes used here are Ugni Blanc. Amongst the other botanicals used in the distillation process are sandalwood, bergamot, prune, java pepper, and the fragrant, perfumed roots of the vetiver.

In 2017 G’Vine took the bold step of revamping Nouaison, upping the botanical components from the original eleven and increasing the ABV from 43.9% to 45%. It seems to have paid off. While Floraison is a lighter, more floral affair, Nouaison is the bold, brassy, larger than life sister. There is no getting away from the grapes, the aroma is initially of grape, then citrus, before earthier, peppery tones make their selves known. It is quite a heavy come-on.

The bottle, too, is solid and uncompromising, a statement of bold intent. Squat, dumpy, made of dark glass, it has broad shoulders, a thick, small neck, and a dark cap with a synthetic stopper. The labelling is clear and understated, cream and gold lettering against the sort of grey background that you see used in restaurants with a touch of pretension. On the rear, the label tells me that their choice of base spirit and botanicals “delivers a smooth yet complex and intensely aromatic gin”.

In the mouth it is warm, a touch peppery complimenting the woodier tones of the juniper and then spicy with ginger and nutmeg to the fore. A long, woody aftertaste is a vivid and welcome reminder of the power and charm of this crystal-clear spirit. It is smooth, a little oily, and unexpectedly warming. It is strong enough to survive even the most inappropriate choice of tonic almost unscathed and works well as a component in a cocktail, the market to which their advertising campaign seems to be directing it.

It is a gin unapologetically designed to appeal to the traditionalist and there is nothing wrong with that.

Until the next time, cheers!

Inverroche Verdant Gin

Based in the Western Cape in Stilbaai, Inverroche distillery is the brainchild of Lorna Scott, its name paying homage to her Scottish ancestry – inver meaning a confluence of water – and to the landscape of the area where it is based – roche being French for rock. Situated in the Cape Floral Kingdom, home to more than 9,000 species of plants or fynbos found nowhere else in the world, it is no surprise that Inverroche Verdant Gin takes advantage of this natural bounty. Scott whittled down the number of contenders to a mere 300 plants, enough to be going on with, and the fynbos that go to make up this spirit have all been hand-selected from the mountainous and rocky regions.

Sustainability and being at one with nature are key drivers for this enterprise and in what is a nice touch, their Mother’s Day presentation gift set came with a “for ever” bottle bag and a box containing six balls made from clay, peat-free compost, and chilli powder, the latter to ward off slugs and snails, chock full of wildflower seeds designed to bring a riot of colour, aromas, and pollinators to the garden. I have already sown mine – you just throw them on to a bare patch of soil and nature should take care of the rest – and look forward to seeing the results.

The bottle itself is elegance personified, tactile and easy to hold, shaped like a lightly angled trapezoid with broad shoulders a short neck, and a cork stopper. The labelling is stunningly classy and minimalist, using gold and black lettering on the sort of paper that Conqueror stationery is made from. The label at the rear of the bottle is more informative, informing me that the “rare and enigmatic” botanicals of the region ensure a “uniquely South African gin”.

Each bottle is labelled and numbered by hand – mine came from Lot L549 and was number 0149 and is “crafted with nature”. Fittingly, given its name the gin has a distinctive golden-green hue. The drinker is promised that “delicate floral aromas reminiscent of elderflower and chamomile, lead to summer blooms, a touch of spice, subtle juniper, zesty lemon, and alluring liquorice”.

In the glass the spirit delivers a heady mix of fresh, vibrant floral notes with juniper and hints of limoncello playing gently in the background. No shrinking violet with an ABV of 43%, this elegant, smooth drink is a must for lovers of floral gin. It is a hugely impressive gin and I can understand why many people lucky enough to have sampled it are raving about it. Floral gins are not normally my thing but it is very refreshing, ideal for a summer’s evening as the sun is setting in the distance.

Until the next time, cheers!

Bathtub Gin – Grapefruit And Rosemary

The ginaissance has spawned a crowded marketplace and distillers need to be on top of their game, or at least their marketeers, to carve out a comfortable niche. Bathtub Gin has one of the most distinctive bottles on the market, bell-shaped, encased in brown paper, with a wax seal and string around the neck, redolent of the days of the Prohibition and bootleggers, that fits in perfect harmony with its name. It is a delicious gin and is highly regarded, rightly so,

One of the recent bandwagons that has emerged in the gin sector is the mania for flavoured gins. This presents a significant dilemma for established brands. Do they develop a flavoured gin from scratch or do they tinker around with their existing hooch. Bathtub have chosen to follow the latter patch but have added an extra element of jeopardy by inviting the great British public, via a social media campaign, to select their preferred pairing of additional flavours.

Democracy has not had a happy track record in recent years, but, for once, the public, carefully steered, have come up trumps. Grapefruit and rosemary were the selected pairing and for what is already a bold gin it is an excellent choice, adding a bit more in the way of vibrancy, zest, and floral notes to the original recipe.

The base gin is the tried and tested Bathtub, which is made by cold compounding where the botanicals are added by infusion without distillation, as was the case in the bootleg days. The grapefruit and rosemary are added after the original gin has been created. As the label says “we blend and infuse Bathtub Gin with natural grapefruit and rosemary to hit those fragrant bittersweet and herbal notes that make this craft gin so delicious”.

They are not wrong. Retaining the light-brown colouring, botanical profile, creaminess, and strength (43.3% ABV) of the original Bathtub Gin, on the nose the familiar aroma of a hefty wedge of juniper, cardamom, and orange is joined by the more delicate, fragrant, floral notes of the rosemary. In the mouth the immediate hit is that of grapefruit that makes a full-frontal assault on your tastebuds, before allowing the earthier notes of the juniper, cinnamon, and rosemary to get a look in. This impressive and intriguing gin signs off with a lingering aftertaste full of spice and sweet citrus.

What could have been two completely disparate parts bodged together have been melded together with some finesse to create a well-balanced spirit which is reminiscent of but different from the original Bathtub. Whether it was worth the effort, only the consumers and sales figures will ultimately determine. For me, no great fan of flavoured gins, it did at least recognise the concept that a gin should be juniper-led and was moreish. Whether it would sway to forsake the original, I doubt.

At least democracy sometimes can come up trumps.

Until the next time, cheers!